How to run a remote workforce that drives your business’ growth

Having staff work from home can supercharge growth, but how do you keep them motivated and working as a team? These are our six golden rules…

In 2016, an analysis by the TUC found that a record 1.5m UK individuals were working from home, having increased by a fifth over the previous decade – and this number is only set to rise.

In fact, in 2014 Office Angels completed a survey which found that a third of employees believe commuting will be a thing of the past by 2036.

In order to adapt and keep growing as this monumental shift happens, modern businesses need to adjust their strategies accordingly and embrace the benefits on offer.

The costs to you as an employer of running a remote workforce are significantly lower, with no office or in-house tech, equipment, facilities and bills to pay for – leaving you more cash to invest into growth.

Faster growth is enabled too, as a home-based workforce’s size isn’t limited by the confines of desk numbers or office space. These days an office could be any internet-enabled hot spot, from a house to a coffee shop, co-work space or even a train.

Of course, as convenient as this is, it throws up several issues. How do you ensure your workforce remain productive? Is it possible to unify all those disparate employees through one effective communication system?

Read on for answers to these questions and more as we explore six golden rules for effectively utilising a remote workforce – and growing your business faster by doing so.

1. Trust is key

For many, working from home saves time and money, and provides the flexibility necessary for a happy work life-balance. But working from a remote location can bring with it distractions and an anonymity that an office would prevent.

So, when looking to hire remote staff, it’s vital that you seek out someone who you can rely on to remain motivated and on-target even without the pressures of an office environment.

Ensure that you meet with potential employees face-to-face both initially and, after hire, on an ongoing basis. Before each meeting, prepare a clear agenda of the questions you need to ask and things you need to check up on to ensure the employee is still suited to the work and your business.

Besides this, it’s also essential to keep in regular email or phone contact with them, relaying the expectations you have of them on a daily or weekly basis.

The beauty of this is that you can look beyond your own town, city or even country for hires, giving you access to hundreds if not thousands more talented individuals than you would have were your workforce restricted to particular places.

Try checking out specific online job boards that cater to people looking for remote work – FlexJobs, We Work Remotely and Outsourcely are just three of many.

2. Train and support

Nothing can beat one-to-one in-house training, but it’s not always feasible. Your business might use software that requires training or specific skills to use, and if you can’t hire people who already have the necessary abilities, you’ll have to ensure they can learn on the job.

Take advantage of video calling and conferencing tools like FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts and Slack for face-to-face but remote training, as the finer points of highly specific instruction can be lost in translation over email.

There are also plenty of online training resources such as LinkedIn’s Lynda, Udemy, edX and FutureLearn that can be accessed. Or you could use Dropbox or Google Drive to share in-depth training files or documents.

Employees should also have access to a system of support. Remember, it takes different amounts of time for people to learn different skills, so be patient and let them know that you, or another employee, are always available to help.

3. Embrace the cloud

The advent of cloud technology is a blessing for companies with a remote workforce.

Storing all of your business documents on the cloud is safe, cost-effective, and ensures it’s easy for employees to access company files and information from any location – keeping everyone on the same page. What’s more, a natural disaster or fire can’t damage your business.

A cloud-based phone system can also link all your employees and customers from multiple locations via one connected solution, and depending on your provider, can offer the added advantage of HD video conferencing. Meanwhile, cloud email ensures you don’t lose vital messages, files and dates when servers and hardware crash.

And as the business owner, you can manage the whole system from one device, and employees can seamlessly integrate with the system by downloading free apps.

A cloud-based solution will also ensure your customers are always satisfied, as it enables you to re-direct calls when you’re working remotely or flexibly. You can choose to direct calls to your own mobile or home landline, or to the employee you think is best suited to answer the query with minimal disruption to the customer.

Cloud offerings like Oracle NetSuite’s business software also enable you to take all of your business’ operations – from CRM to accounting, HR, inventory and more – onto the cloud, making it easy for staff to access and collaborate on these processes from anywhere.

4. Share your goals

Just like a boat requires everyone to be rowing in the same direction, so does your business.

Make sure all your employees know – and are reminded of – the company goals, and are updated if and when they change. This will ensure your staff remain focused and they’ll be more motivated if they understand what they are working towards.

Similarly, be sure to congratulate or reward employees when goals are met. It’s often easy to forget to do this if your staff aren’t in the office, but showing them their work has value and is appreciated is an important way to keep employees motivated and working hard.

5. Put all resources in one place

The cloud allows you to store all of the online resources your business uses in a secure and easy-to-access location. Make sure your employees know where these are, and which resources will be valuable to their work (there is a wealth of information on the internet, but there’s also a lot of nonsense).

Take time to research the resources that are suitable for your business and make sure everyone is using the same ones to ensure a good flow of reliable, up-to-date information.

6. Meet face-to-face

Face-to-face meet-ups aren’t just a good time for people to discuss work and air concerns, they are also an invaluable opportunity for employees to get to know their colleagues, growing valuable working relationships and making connections with those who might be able to collaborate with them on particular tasks or projects.

Interacting in person allows people to put a face to the typed name, bodiless voice or lifeless avatar they’ve been interacting with, making them feel more comfortable in future online or phone communications.

As a boss, this can also be a good time to give feedback about performance in a more personal way.

Oracle NetSuite’s cloud business software suite is trusted by more than 40,000 organisations. Find out more about NetSuite here

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